Mission of Democracy Magazine:
To illuminate and promote democracy and its practice for all interested parties.
Citizen Participation: The Five Spice Club
Membership by thought, personal choice as to action:
All you have to do to become a member of the Five Spice Club (FSC) is think that you are. There is no paperwork whatsoever. There are no officers, no charter, no property of any kind. Just ideas and attitude, and your personal plan of action to support the goal of the Five Spice Club: democracy in America. The only method used by Five Spicers (5S) to achieve their goal of democracy is socializing, buying and selling, trading, talking, going where you want to go, and staying away where you want to stay away. No special tools are needed, except your own money and credit. No weapons of any kind are needed, no fighting, no combat, no violent conflict. Just hang out, hang back, or hang up. Remain silent or speak. Good timing is essential.
The American stage for democracy:
The founding persons of our nation (1750-1790), including the women who advised their spouses and enabled households to survive and community economics to succeed and the new civilization to survive, set the stage for real democracy. Democracy was both very old, having been started in ancient Greece, and new, having been found in the tribal councils of the Native Americans. Ideas about democracy, and especially the idea that the power of government is the power of the people vested in the government, and only those powers given or "surrendered" by the people for the purpose of effective government, was also a major theme of the "Age of Reason" -- the written works of social, economic and political philosophers of the previous two centuries (Roussea, Montesquieu, Locke, Hobbs, J. S. Mill, et al) -- as well as the writings of great thinkers from ancient Rome and Renaissance Italy.
Therefore, there is a lot of background in the story of American democracy, which is not real democracy, but a republic that employs democratic process in very important ways, sincere attempts to apply the first principles of democracy, such as the Rule of Law and Free Speech, and Due Process and The Rights of the Accused. These first principles are vital to the creation of any democracy, but they are not enough in themselves because of the corrosive effect of human social instincts, the instinct to form self-protective and self-serving groups. This is our instinct for survival, to belong to a community that can sustain us physically, economically, emotionally, and of course politically. This instinct is so strong, it can degrade even the most ambitious and well-intentioned republic. The wealthy and powerful in any society or nation form an "aristocracy" and an ancient Greek Philosopher, I believe it was Aristotle, said that the ideal forms of social organization, or of government, degrade over time, and deteriorate into self-serving and often self-destructive forms of human behavior. One of the most famous of these patterns of deterioration, known to every student of political science, is the deterioration of an "aristocracy," even a benevolent aristocracy of generous spirit, can deteriorate into an "oligarchy," which means a group of rich and powerful people who use their power for selfish and destructive purposes rather than to serve the community and nation.
This has happened in America. Even though we have many institutional structures, such as our judicial traditions and the separation of church and state, and the "separation of powers" into Executive, Legislative and Judicial, our society is still a human society, and not immune to the powerful instincts of people, and the fears that invade the human mind. In spite of the fact that both our Declaration of Independence and Constitution establish democratic principles and democratic practice, we are still not a real democracy. We are a republic, and both the conservative friends to democracy, as well as the fearful opponents of democracy, like to point this out. "We are a republic!" they say, proudly, as though being a democracy would be some kind of offense against Nature.
The Five Spice Club is the group of American citizens, unnamed and unnumbered, who are bound together by the conviction that we were supposed to become a democracy from the very beginning, and it is never too late. We five spicers believe that the United States of America is not only a nation, but also a movement, a worldwide movement of people climbing out of the deep hole of oppressive political and social structures into the warm and shining light of freedom, in a democratic society. This is not imaginary. This is World History 101, from Magna Carter to the American Civil War and beyond, the hunger for real democracy and the reach for real democracy drives individuals, tribes and nations.
Here is the primary set of convictions that bind us Five Spicers together:
1) Our Constitution is the best that could be approved at the time (1787) because the colonial society was still a European and British society that could change only so much at one fell swoop. A teacher of democracy, John P. Roche, once said that the American colonists were not really demanding a whole new set of rights, they were actually Americans demanding the rights of Englishmen. They certainly refined the language of freedom and democracy, and most historians would argue they had invented a new language, a new means of articulation, to state the meaning of freedom and how principles of human freedom could be -- and actually were -- built into a design of government. Perhaps the most important concept thought about and put into action in Revolutionary America was the idea that government is consciously and deliberately created by people for their own benefit, and government -- of any form -- is not something that just naturally happens randomly without human design or intelligent intent. Americans identified and propagated, and still do, the idea that a government is a human artifact, a work of human design, the same as a building or a city. It doesn't just happen, and if it seems to be just happening it needs to be interrupted, corrected, and re-designed. That is what democracy is: scientific government, government that is created as an act of an organized people, not an accident of history, or of social instincts. If people are free, they must be free to change, and if people are free to change, then their government must also be designed for change. A government that cannot change is not a proper government for a people who are free or who want to be free. The capacity for change that resides in the society or civilization must also be built, consciously and deliberatively, into the government, so that people and government can change together, like a shore shaped by the sea.
Democratic government equals scientific government:
2) Because democratic government is scientific government, the social and political freedoms of the people must not only tolerate debate but must sustain and promote open discussion of any and all issues that arouse the human heart, mind and soul. There must be at best only a very few forbidden ideas, which seem to the majority to be totally destructive or contrary to common sense. One good example of such a "forbidden idea" is racial hatred, which clearly is not compatible with human freedom and democracy because racism as we know it makes real freedom and real democracy impossible. A caste system or any rigidly defined social system, closed to individual growth or social development, is the opposite of freedom and democracy, and therefore falls into that small but logical category of "forbidden ideas." Still, in a robust democracy, even racial concepts, and the meaning of "race" or "ethnicity" would be open for discussion in safe academic and social environments.
Democratic government requires meaningful open competition of ideas:
3) Elections of legislative and executive officials must be conducted in an environment of real competition of ideas and policies. We have to be on guard for contrived elections where there are no meaningful choices, or the debate of political issues is secretly or openly controlled and limited to issues selected by an elite or an oligarchy. This appears to be the situation we have today (2009) in America. One political party would certainly be recognized as a sign that democracy is contrived, or completely non-existent. Restriction to two political parties, the reality for the United States of America since the 1920s, is also not a good sign for democracy. Although two political parties present some choice, there are significant disabilities presented by the "two-party system" in the USA, precisely because the last sixty years of elections demonstrates that the two-party system has developed processes that "just happened" that obstruct the development of any serious competition from a third, fourth or fifth political party. The conviction that there should be at least five political parties in a democratic election, is the origin of the Five in the Five Spice Club. Members of the Five Spice Club want to make the transition, now, from the restricted "two-party system" to a multi-party system supported by coalition government and legislative primacy.
Link to: (Welcome) or (JMDM 2009)